‘Money Answereth All Things.’ ‘The Love of Money is the Beginning of Evil.’ These two sentences are quotations from the scriptures, and both are true.
Nigerian national football teams participating in all major tournaments have had one form of protests or another to pursue their money. This trend has been in our football administration and body policy for a while but has become heightened since Amaju Melvin Pinnick Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) came on board.
The Super Eagles participated in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil in 2014. The rancor that happened in Brazil because of money has not been resolved till date. FIFA released the sum of nine-million dollars
($9m) to Nigeria to run that tournament but till date, the money has become a subject of investigation and court case involving the EFCC, ICPC and the leadership of the NFF.
During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before the Super Eagles’ opening match with Iran, the players had resolved not to train nor play the match until issues that had to do with their allowances and bonuses from the FIFA were resolved. Typical of the NFF, such was not made known to the players who have discussed with their counterparts from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. As this persisted (the bonus row), the head of Nigerian delegation, former Senate President, David Mark, got wind and headed with his team to the players hotel about 130km away from Sao Paulo. It was this intervention that saved Nigeria from heavy embarrassment. Of course, the match against Iran, debutant at the world stage ended goalless with Nigeria the luckier of the two teams.
After this match, Senator David Mark, still sensing dangers ahead, had to relinquish the presidential plane that brought him to Brazil to the Minister of Sports then, Tammy Danagogo to go to President Goodluck Jonathan for funds. And in a jiffy, three-million dollars ($3m) was brought from Abuja the following day and that cushioned the situation and the Super Eagles were settled. The Eagles were able to roll over Bosnia and Herzegovina to enable them to qualify for the round of 16.
Till date, the money received from the presidency and the one that was released by FIFA after the 2014 World Cup is yet to be accounted for by the NFF. The squabbles between the NFF and the national football teams have continued since then. In 2016, the Super Falcons had to protest by embarking on a 15-day-sit-tight in their hotel rooms in Abuja after winning the AWCON in Cameroon. Not done with the sit-tight which did not produce the desired results, the team took to the streets and marched on to the National Assembly before an intervention by the leadership of the NASS brought the situation under control.
Up to this moment, it is not clear whether the NFF has sincerely and transparently resolved this matter once and for all. Watchers believe that the NFF’s handling the Super Falcons’ demand has been far from satisfactory; otherwise the recent protest on the 23rd of June, 2019 in France after their exit in the round of 16 by Germany would not have reared its ugly head. Again, it took a lot of pleas for the ladies to leave their hotel rooms in France.
A week earlier the national U-20 team, the Flying Eagles also went through the same ordeal, they also didn’t collect their dues from the NFF sadly this happened in Poland during the FIFA U-20 World Cup, where the Flying Eagles were dumped out in the round of 16 by Junior Teranga Lions of Senegal. It took promises and almost forces application to evacuate the Flying Eagles from their rooms.
The ongoing AFCON in Egypt is not without its own money palaver. There was almost the boycott of training before our match with Guinea. It took the ‘elderly’ role of vice-captain, Ahmed Musa and Coach Gernot Rohr, to message the nerves of the angry team. The performance of the Super Eagles so far has shown a team psychologically and morally deflated. The needless defeat by debutant Madagascar depicts a team low in morale, without commitment and being distracted.
Fans in Egypt and other nationals believe that Nigerians image is being tarnished by the frequent disagreements between players and the NFF leadership over money despite the fight against corruption. Kudos to President Muhammadu Buhari for sending the powerful presidential delegation to Egypt, headed by the number three man, Senate President Ahmed Lawal. The delegation is influential enough to organize the set-up in Egypt. Hopefully they can restore some hope and improve the morale of the boys who are upbeat by the ineptitude of the NFF. Every labourer deserves his wages. The era of “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop” should be a thing of the past.